Monday 16 March 2015

Out for Mothers Day Lunch at

It's come to the end of a long but enjoyable day and I'm thankful to my children for all the hugs, messages of love, homemade cards and little gifts I got today. I'm also grateful to my husband for doing the homework with the girls and giving me a little time to myself earlier.

It has been my kind of day, there has not been anything massively fancy but we have done things that I've enjoyed. I got up early and breakfasted with my three babes, they smothered me with presents and good wishes. We all went to church parade this morning and I received three cute little posies of flowers. We then headed over to the Windmill Brewers Fayre for lunch and then back home where I read and studied ready for a course I am running on Wednesday.

Following a chilled afternoon at home we headed to our regular church for their cafe style evening service and it was fabulous. A grilled chicken kebab and a movie with my husband have topped the day off. I can go to bed happy.

I think days like Mothering Sunday can be difficult for some as the expectation of what might happen is huge. Will my children remember? Will I get great gifts? Will my husband look after the kids? Can I relax all day and suit myself? I have to be honest and say I try not to build my own expectations up and thankfully my family do OK.  Yes I have stacked the dishwasher and I've made the kids food but I'm OK with that because what I try and remember today is that I'm their mother and it is these things I do with love that mean they want to make me cards and give me breakfast in bed.

We did something we have never done before today, we went out for lunch on Mothers Day.  I normally avoid restaurants on commercial days like this as I figure they will be overpriced and far too crowded with poor service and food due to how busy they are. Have a read below and see how we did at our local Brewers Fayre -

Our table had been booked for us for 12 noon by the PR and due to church finish times we arrived early at 11.30am figuring we could have a drink in the bar. Wrong! We were told we could wait but nothing was to be served until 12 noon, not even a coke. OK, we figure the opening time for the restaurant must be 12 noon so I go and check the Brewers Fayre website. Wrong! The opening times are shown as 7am - 10.30pm and it states breakfast is 7-11am on a Sunday so we figure that we really should be able to get a drink if they are open.  Open surely means serving something, right? Well yes, as it turns out they were serving something but only slushy! How bizarre is that? One guy having breakfast bought a slushy so my daughter went to buy one too and begrudgingly she was served but her sister could not have a J2O for some reason. The servers words "we are only serving slushy at the moment".

So we waited the 30 minutes with one slushy between the five of us and then at 11.55pm we went over to the podium and were met by a guy we assume was one of the mangers. As soon as I gave my name it became obvious he knew what I was there for as he became all animated and took us over to our table. Sadly our table was in a conservatory type area and as dh and I were sat next to the window it was freezing.  I asked to move as we were one of about only 4 tables seated in a restaurant that I guess must seat at least 200 but I was told that all tables were allocated (some were still empty when we left 1 hour 45 minutes later).

Brewers Fayre, if I can give you one piece of advise it is that first impressions count. This bizarre waiting experience and then cold table really set the tone for our meal and that was such a shame as there were parts that were good. Really good, like Gareth the chef and how helpful and friendly he was and Charlie the waiter, who could not do enough for us and did not appear to know I was reviewing your service offering. The kids loved the soft-play area too and I thought the Beano/ Dennis the Menace theming on the kids menu and activity book was very good. We aslo like the refillable drinks, Pepsi and such for £2.45 (up to 6.30pm) and coffee at £2.50 and as it was Costa I could drink it all day.

The actual food itself was OK, it was never going to set the world alight but then I didn't expect it to as Brewers Fayre is the budget restaurant in the Whitbread repertoire, I'd go to a Beefeater instead on any day of the week and especially on the weekend when there are not really any deals at the Brewers Fayre and you are looking to spend at least £8-10 per adult on a main course alone. My husband and I had a carvery each and the gammon and turkey was good and succulent. The beef looked great but was actually a bit tough, the yorkshires were bought in and the vegetables were OK but I'd love to have seen some carrots, they are a British staple. Perhaps they thought the root veg mash was an alternative?

The £9.99 price tag for the carvery felt a bit steep but it did include tomato soup and a roll. We could help ourselves to this but I had to ask the chef for a bowl, soup spoon and side plate as none were out. The kids loved that the rolls were on the side as it meant they helped themselves to one as well.

JJ ordered his favourite burger and chips and it was pretty much as you would expect.  I thought his burger looked over-cooked but dh had a bite and said it was fine. In general JJ was very happy as he had a warm brownie with chocolate sauce and ice cream for afters and he declared it the most awesome dessert ever.

My girls both ate off the Dennis the Menace kids menu and there was a good variety of foods on there, as you would expect.  Miss E had bangers, mash and beans and she was super happy and ate it all up and Miss M had spaghetti bolognese and chips and again she was a another very happy girl. We paid £4.99 for the girls 3 course meals and they had a piece of garlic bread/ nachos for their starter and then mini doughnuts and dipping sauce/ brownie and ice cream for dessert. We would come again for the kids menu, it was good value and they really enjoyed it. Again it was not the highest quality food but as I said before I didn't expect that at this kind of pub restaurant and of course the play zone was a bonus that meant they did not get bored waiting for their food. Not they would have to have today as the food came out quickly.

The meal for the 5 of us today - 3 courses for the girls, 2 courses for JJ and I and 3 courses for dh with one soft drink each would have cost just under £58 if we had paid the full bill. Would I have been happy forking out this amount on this meal? Begrudgingly. The chef and the waiter were the saving grace, they both genuinely cared and were friendly and attentive. The guy that seated us was good as he helped Miss M find a lost strap for her shoe and the deputy manager bought me my 70p difference when they could not supply the dessert we had paid for, so actually all the staff were fine. The food as I've said was definitely edible and whilst it was not gourmet we all enjoyed our meal. The big spoils was the welcome (or lack there of) on arrival, the inability to buy a drink before 12 noon and the very cold area we sat in (we were told the heating would be turned on but nothing changed).

Would we go to a Brewers Fayre again?  Yes probably but not on a weekend, we have been to one before and we enjoyed the two meals for £10 deal (Mon - Fri 12noon - 6.30pm) as there is good variety and you can eat well for not much money. In fact add to that the two starters for £2.50 and two desserts for £2.50 and two of you can have a 3 course meal each for just £15 and no-one can argue with that kind of value.

If you have a Brewers Fayre near you and you enjoy visiting then you probably should join the Bonus club as I see you get 5 points for every £1 spent and you get 250 when you activate your card.  Then once you reach 500 points that is 2 free desserts, a bottle of wine or a £5 voucher and you get a free meal on your birthday too.

If we had to give an overall rating for our meal out today it would be 6/10 as the problems at the start really did cloud the overall experience and that is a shame, as it would have been so easy to have someone serving at the bar for even 15 minutes before 12 noon.

Disclosure: I was provided with £50 to use on a meal and asked to report back honestly on the restaurant. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

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